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Posted 10/3/2017

Release no. 17-012


Contact
Michael Embrich
917-790-8007

Grand Isle, VT– The Lake Champlain Basin Program and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), announce that an agreement has been signed to determine how best to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species within the Champlain Canal.  The agreement is between the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers with matching funds provided by the Lake Champlain Basin Program with support from Senator Patrick Leahy and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “I thank the Lake Champlain Basin Program staff and leadership for their perseverance in pushing forward with this significant project to protect Lake Champlain from the scourge of invasive species, and I commend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for now beginning the work.  We have waited too long to begin preventing nuisance species from invading through the Champlain Canal.  Some bad intruders are knocking at our door, and we must solve this problem now.”

The Champlain Canal is an important catalyst for economic growth and tourism in the basin.  It has also been identified as one of many known avenues through which aquatic invasive species enter Lake Champlain.  Aquatic invasive species such as the spiny water flea, water chestnut, and zebra mussel are nonnative species that cause harm to the economy, environment, or are a threat to human health.  There are 50 known aquatic nonnative and invasive species in Lake Champlain, 122 in the Hudson, and 186 in the Great Lakes system, which are all connected by the Champlain and Erie canals, and Mohawk and Hudson Rivers.    

 “The Erie Canal hosts round goby, hydrilla, and quagga mussels, known invasive species that are heading east toward the Champlain Canal.  This study will help us to identify the best solutions to address aquatic invasive species transport, while maintaining recreational use of the canal”, Meg Modley, Lake Champlain Basin Program.

The Champlain Canal Barrier Feasibility Study was authorized by Section 542 of the Water Resources Development Act 2000, and amended 2017.  The Army Corps is authorized to conduct a feasibility study, as well as construct, operate and maintain a barrier that would block the movement of species along the Champlain Canal.  The Lake Champlain Basin Program worked with the Army Corps to initiate the feasibility study.  Supporting funds from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in the amount of $199,500 were secured with the help of Senator Leahy to initiate the project, which is estimated to cost $570,000.

"I'm very pleased this study is moving forward," said Col. Thomas D. Asbery, District commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, adding, "The Champlain Canal plays a major role economically in the region and must be protected from the spread of aquatic invasive species."

Colonel Asbery, commander of the New York District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, signs the Champlain Canal Barrier Project Partnership Agreement, with NEIWPCC, Senator Leahy staff, and LCBP on the phone. Joseph Seebode, Jason Shea, Paul Tumminello, and Ellen Simon from the New York District also attended the meeting on September 26, 2017.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Aquatic invasive species pose serious threats to New York’s abundant water resources and our communities. Governor Cuomo is advancing comprehensive spread prevention programs and has committed considerable resources to this effort. Additional measures to prevent aquatic invasive species movement through the Champlain Canal would be yet another important element to advance our ongoing spread prevention efforts. We look forward to working with our partners at New York Canals to prevent the spread of invasive species while sustaining the Canal System’s rich historical, recreational, and economic assets.”

Work on the project is expected to begin in the next few months.  To learn more about this project contact Daria Mazey in New York District Planning at daria.s.mazey@usace.army.mil or (917) 790-8726 or Meg Modley at the Lake Champlain Basin Program at mmodley@lcbp.org or (802) 372-3213.